Mott coach Steve Schmidt expressed his pride in his team and how grateful he is to the Flint community during an event Wednesday (Photo: Patrick Hayes).
By Patrick Hayes
There have already been a lot of words written here about Mott’s season and record-breaking fourth national championship. An understated, yet arguably most impressive, accomplishment was mentioned by coach Steve Schmidt during a ceremony at Ballenger Fieldhouse Wednesday: all 13 players who started the season on Mott’s roster finished the season on the roster.
That might not sound like much, but to anyone who coaches or follows JUCO basketball closely, it’s pretty amazing. Roster turnover during the season in the JUCO ranks is generally a given. Even a program like Mott, that has an unmatched track record of success when it comes to players succeeding both on the court and in the classroom, usually loses a player or two during the course of most seasons, whether that’s a result of classroom or off-court mishaps or otherwise failing to live up to Schmidt’s admittedly high standards. That the Bears did not have a single player leave or be dismissed from the team this season is a testament to just how committed this team was in its quest for a championship.
During the ceremony, Schmidt praised his players — at one time suggesting this year’s team and his former players are the ones who should have Steve Schmidt Gymnasium named after them — for their selflessness and dedication, thanked his coaching staff and the Mott administration and thanked the community for its continued support of the program. He also addressed the elephant in the room — the fact that he was a candidate for the recently filled Central Michigan University coaching vacancy.
Schmidt, as he always is, was honest about his interest in Division I coaching opportunities, was honest about his candidacy for the CMU job and expressed, despite disappointment at not getting it, how much coaching at Mott means to him.
Eric Woodyard of the Flint Journal covered the event as well and had some great comments from several people, including longtime fan William Frierson:
“There are a lot of people that never even see a national championship team and the fact that we get to interact with them is really outstanding,” said William Frierson, a 51-year-old who has followed Mott basketball for over 30 years. “I really liked the 1980 team so I would have liked to see this team and that team play each other.”
The evening also featured players getting individual championship plaques and an impromptu dunk contest won by diminutive former Flint Northern guard Shaquille Smith.